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Homework: How to Help

By Alice Nicholson

Parents can play an important role in helping their children succeed in school by using some guidelines and using a problem-solving approach to homework.

It's easy to say that you should help your child with their homework. For parents, it's hard to decide just what to do, and how much to do. What's too little? What's too much? Here are some general guidelines:

• Help your kids with their homework by setting aside a regular time and place for homework. If you can, be nearby. Help your child with their homework, but don't do it for them. If possible, encourage your child to do their homework at a regular time of day.

• Set an example by working on something of your own during time set aside for homework. You might balance a checkbook or read a magazine or, even do some of your own homework. You may even want to talk about a problem out loud, so your child knows it's OK to ask questions and work things through. The important thing is that your child knows you are available for them and you are setting an example of setting aside time for reading or studying too.

• Ask your child questions about his homework. Ask them how it's going. Perhaps they could do a problem for you or describe what they've been reading. Then, when your child needs help, your goal should be to help them do it themselves. Suggest that they try a certain approach. Help them find information. Work on an example for them. Ask lots of questions. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know." Remember: you're a guide and a support to your child.

• An assignment may be overwhelming to your child. Help your child break the assignment down and identify the steps needed to complete the homework.

• Assist your child with technology. If you have access to a computer, work together so you know what they are doing. Or, ask the school if there are computer labs where children are supervised as they work online. Most libraries have computers you and your child can use together also.

• If you can't physically be available, you can still set aside a time and place and check on their homework when you get a chance.

• Encourage children to think of their homework as their job. The biggest part of the job is to learn.

What's important is you make it clear homework is important and you are there to help support them and effectively guide them through assignments. At the same time, help children become independent learners and users of information.